Commentary on Esther 9-10

Notes (NET Translation)

9:1 In the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar), on its thirteenth day, the edict of the king and his law were to be executed. It was on this day that the enemies of the Jews had supposed that they would gain power over them. But contrary to expectations, the Jews gained power over their enemies.

9:2 The Jews assembled themselves in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to strike out against those who were seeking their harm. No one was able to stand before them, for dread of them fell on all the peoples.

The fear of the Jews prevented many people from trying to harm the Jews.

9:3 All the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and those who performed the king’s business were assisting the Jews, for the dread of Mordecai had fallen on them.

9:4 Mordecai was of high rank in the king’s palace, and word about him was spreading throughout all the provinces. His influence continued to become greater and greater.

9:5 The Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, bringing death and destruction, and they did as they pleased with their enemies.

This is a reversal of Haman’s decree in 3:13.

The phrase “doing whatever they pleased” sounds rather more sinister. Given the kind of atrocities that normally accompanied war in the ancient world, it is possible to imagine a great deal of cruelty reflected in that phrase. A similar phrase, however, occurs in Dan 11:16, where the “king of the north” will do as he pleases to all his enemies, and in Neh 9:24, which recalls the way the Israelites did whatever they pleased to the Canaanites during the conquest. This second parallel is especially significant, since it is virtually certain that the book of Esther is linking the Jews’ battle against their enemies to the “holy war” motif of the Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges, fulfilling the command to destroy the Amalekites and other peoples of the land of Canaan as they had failed to do so long before.1

9:6 In Susa the citadel the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men.

9:7 In addition, they also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, 9:8 Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, 9:9 Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vaizatha, 9:10 the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not confiscate their property.

Haman’s descendants will not be able to take vengeance on the Jews.

In Esth 5:11, Haman bragged to his wife and friends about “his riches, his many sons, and all the ways the king had promoted him.” Each of these sources of pride has now been stripped away and given over to the Jews: his riches were given to Esther in 8:1; his promotions given to Mordecai in 8:2; and now his sons, too, have fallen into the hands of his enemies. With the death of his sons, Haman’s downfall is complete.2

The Jews were allowed to take plunder (8:11) but choose not to do so (9:10, 15-16), perhaps because they were fighting for survival and not wealth. The seizing of the Amalekites’ plunder cost Saul his kingship (1 Sam 15:3, 26) while not taking the plunder brings royal power to Mordecai (9:20-23).

9:11 On that same day the number of those killed in Susa the citadel was brought to the king’s attention.

9:12 Then the king said to Queen Esther, “In Susa the citadel the Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman! What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? What is your request? It shall be given to you. What other petition do you have? It shall be done.”

A detail that seems to have escaped the commentators is why Esther is with the king in the first place. The queen was not in the habit of lingering in the king’s presence, and the king was not in the habit of summoning her. Evidently, the reason Esther is with the king now is because she has come before him once again as a supplicant. Certainly, that is how Xerxes interprets her presence, because he asks her to present a request. But as a prelude to her request, the king told her what had already been accomplished–information he would have known, but she may not have received. Nonetheless, Xerxes assures Esther that he is willing to grant her whatever else she desires. The wording here parallels that of his promises at Esther’s two banquets (Esth 5:6; 7:2), but it is somewhat more restrained, since he does not promise her up to half his kingdom. Is the king beginning to have some misgivings about his generous accommodation of the queen’s desires?3

9:13 Esther replied, “If the king is so inclined, let the Jews who are in Susa be permitted to act tomorrow also according to today’s law, and let them hang the ten sons of Haman on the gallows.”

It is not clear why a second day of fighting is requested. Perhaps Esther feared that survivors would seek revenge. The bodies of Haman’s ten sons were probably impaled on pikes for public display.

9:14 So the king issued orders for this to be done. A law was passed in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged.

9:15 The Jews who were in Susa then assembled on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they killed three hundred men in Susa. But they did not confiscate their property.

9:16 The rest of the Jews who were throughout the provinces of the king assembled in order to stand up for themselves and to have rest from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of their adversaries, but they did not confiscate their property.

To have rest means to live in peace. The author may be alluding to Deut 25:19: “So when the LORD your God gives you relief from all the enemies who surround you in the land he is giving you as an inheritance, you must wipe out the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven–do not forget!” The slaughter of Haman’s sons can be seen as accomplishing this command.

9:17 All of this happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. They then rested on the fourteenth day and made it a day for banqueting and happiness.

9:18 But the Jews who were in Susa assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth days, and rested on the fifteenth, making it a day for banqueting and happiness.

9:19 This is why the Jews who are in the rural country – those who live in rural cities – set aside the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a holiday for happiness, banqueting, holiday, and sending gifts to one another.

The notion of giving gifts of food seems somewhat incongruous: what does giving food to others have to do with celebrating deliverance from destruction? The practice should be read, however, in light of Neh 8:10-12 and Esth 9:22. In Neh 8:10-12, the people were instructed to celebrate the reading of the Law by feasting and sending portions of food to anyone who did not have anything available with which to celebrate. In 8:12, it states simply that they “sent portions.” Likewise, the instructions here probably mean that the Jews were to send gifts of food to the poor so that they, too, could rejoice. Indeed, the word used here, “portions” (manôt) refers to a section apportioned for a specific purpose–a “share.” The text seems to mean that the Jews were sharing with people who did not have resources. This interpretation seems to be confirmed by Esth 9:22, which specifically adds that the Jews were to send gifts to the poor.4

9:20 Mordecai wrote these matters down and sent letters to all the Jews who were throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 9:21 to have them observe the fourteenth and the fifteenth day of the month of Adar each year 9:22 as the time when the Jews gave themselves rest from their enemies – the month when their trouble was turned to happiness and their mourning to a holiday. These were to be days of banqueting, happiness, sending gifts to one another, and providing for the poor.

Verse 20 says that Mordecai recorded the events in the letter he sent, not that he wrote the book of Esther. 2 Macc 15:36 identifies “Mordecai’s Day” with the fourteenth of Adar. Modern-day Jews celebrate Purim on the 14th, except for those in Jerusalem who observe the holiday on the 15th.5 “Today Purim remains a major festival of the Jewish year, an occasion of feasting, gift giving, and charity. Its principal religious ceremony is the public reading, once in the evening and once in the morning, of the book of Esther from a special scroll (Heb. megillah).”6

9:23 So the Jews committed themselves to continue what they had begun to do and to what Mordecai had written to them.

The Jews had spontaneously celebrated (“what they had begun to do”) but they also now commit themselves to a formal celebration in response to Mordecai’s instructions.

9:24 For Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised plans against the Jews to destroy them. He had cast pur (that is, the lot) in order to afflict and destroy them.

Verses 24-25 provide a summary of what Mordecai put in his letter. Pur is an Akkadian word meaning “lot”.

9:25 But when the matter came to the king’s attention, the king gave written orders that Haman’s evil intentions that he had devised against the Jews should fall on his own head. He and his sons were hanged on the gallows.

9:26 For this reason these days are known as Purim, after the name of pur.

One result of Mordecai’s letter is that the holiday is named Purim.

9:27 Therefore, because of the account found in this letter and what they had faced in this regard and what had happened to them, the Jews established as binding on themselves, their descendants, and all who joined their company that they should observe these two days without fail, just as written and at the appropriate time on an annual basis.

The phrase “all who might join them” has been seen as a reference to those who converted to Judaism out of fear of the Jews in 8:17. The word used here (hannilwîm), however, is different from the word designating the “converts” in 8:17 (mithyahadîm). It seems more likely that this phrase is referring to all future converts to Judaism, who will be expected to celebrate the Jews’ deliverance from Haman along with those who had actually experienced the event. The ordinance is similar to that regarding the Passover. Along with the Israelites and their descendants, provisions were made for any aliens or foreigners who wished to participate: they had to be circumcised and become like native Israelites (Exod 12:43–49).

The narrator is careful, it appears, not to refer to this observation as a “law,” “commandment,” or even a “statute” (cf. Exod 12:14). It is merely what they are to be “doing” (osîm). Mordecai is not Moses. He is not creating a new holiday, but merely formalizing an existing time of celebration.7

9:28 These days were to be remembered and to be celebrated in every generation and in every family, every province, and every city. The Jews were not to fail to observe these days of Purim; the remembrance of them was not to cease among their descendants.

The emphasis on keeping the feast annually through the years and generations and the stress on written records and instructions (see 9.20, 23, 29, 32) seem designed to secure a place in the Jewish calendar for a celebration not authorized in the Torah and whose legitimacy might therefore seem in doubt.8

9:29 So Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim.

The meaning of this verse is not clear. It seems that Esther wrote a letter with the assistance of Mordecai. The Hebrew literally says that this second letter confirmed itself, but this does not make sense. The original text probably said that this second letter confirmed the instructions concerning Purim given in the first letter.

9:30 Letters were sent to all the Jews in the hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the empire of Ahasuerus – words of true peace – 9:31 to establish these days of Purim in their proper times, just as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had established, and just as they had established both for themselves and their descendants, matters pertaining to fasting and lamentation.

The fasts and lamenting in 9:31 contrasts with the earlier joyful description of the holiday. “No date is assigned for this fast. Jews traditionally observe the 13th of Adar, Haman’s propitious day (see 3:7, 13), as a fast (‘the fast of Esther’) before the celebration of Purim. These three days of victory celebration on the 13th-15th days of Adar rhetorically balance the three days of Esther’s fasting prior to interceding with the king (4:16).”9

9:32 Esther’s command established these matters of Purim, and the matter was officially recorded.

In the opening episode, a decree was issued that would make all women obey their husbands; now, a woman issues a decree that all Jewish men will obey.10

10:1 King Ahasuerus then imposed forced labor on the land and on the coastlands of the sea.

The Hebrew word mas (“forced labor”) can also be translated “tribute”. The “coastlands of the sea” are the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean. The point of this verse may be to contrast Xerxes’s behavior with the feasting, gift-giving, and deliverance associated with Purim.

10:2 Now all the actions carried out under his authority and his great achievements, along with an exact statement concerning the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king promoted, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia?

This verse follows the formula used to describe Israel’s kings (e.g., 1 Kings 14:29; 15:31; 16:14, 20, 27). The book in question is probably the book mentioned in 2:23 and 6:1.

10:3 Mordecai the Jew was second only to King Ahasuerus. He was the highest-ranking Jew, and he was admired by his numerous relatives. He worked enthusiastically for the good of his people and was an advocate for the welfare of all his descendants.

“The Hebrew text ends by evoking the figure of Mordecai as a symbol of the inevitable triumph of God’s people.”11 “Although the book bears her name, Esther is missing from this final notice of Mordecai’s greatness and popularity.”12

This closing note, perhaps later appended, of the high office and esteem of Mordecai is probably not intended to detract from the significance of Esther, but to round off the story with a cameo portrait of the possibility and desirability of Jewish-Gentile cooperation. A Jew who is highly esteemed by his compatriots (10:3) may still be a Persian official of the highest rank, to the advantage of Jews and Gentiles alike.13

Bibliography

Barker, Kenneth L. ed. The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Brown, Raymond E. ed. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Mays, James L. ed. The HarperCollins Bible Commentary (Revised Edition). San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2000.

Meeks, Wayne A. ed. The HarperCollins Study Bible. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Tomasino, Anthony. Esther. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013.


  1. Tomasino EEC 9:5 
  2. Tomasino EEC 9:7-9 
  3. Tomasino EEC 9:11-12 
  4. Tomasino EEC 9:19 
  5. Barker 720 
  6. Mays 358 
  7. Tomasino EEC 9:27 
  8. Meeks 748 
  9. Barker 720 
  10. Tomasino EEC 9:32 
  11. Brown 579 
  12. Meeks 748 
  13. Mays 358 
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